Yes, I am a Yankee fan. I follow every game. I read the sports page. Well at least the stories about the Yankees. I love the players. And I have always been fascinated by George Steinbrenner, owner of the most successful franchise in baseball history, the Yankees. His passing truly saddened me. He was a man that left a true legacy. A man from which women leaders (and male leaders as well) can learn a bit about leadership.
Most women don't know much about George, but sports fans either loved him or hated him. Mostly hated him. Some of it was jealousy. George is accused by competitive teams and fans of changing baseball by using his financial power to buy and keep great players. This strategy continued a Yankee tradition started in the 1920s, long before George bought the team. And why not? Major league baseball is not only a sport, it is a business.
There are many stories about George. Stories about his temper, his conniving ways, his firing, rehiring of managers, particularly Billy Martin, all these making him a colorful character and a questionable leader. But he adored most of his players and was a generous giver to charities and people who were in trouble and needed his monetary support -- usually doing this quietly without recognition. He was also willing to step out of his comfort zone in business, like when he was part of an investment group that created the YES network in 2005, which has become the number one regional sports network.. He was a "bad" boy, too. Banned from major league baseball twice -- once for making illegal campaign contributions . Afterwards, he was back stronger then ever.
You may ask, what can women possibly learn from this man, whose life was quite controversial? Sure he was rich. Sure he was powerful, but so what?
Here's what women leaders, and some men, too, can learn from George Steinbrenner:
#1. Stop trying to be perfect. There are no perfect leaders. Everyone makes mistakes. It's part of life and it's part of doing business.
#2 Forgive yourself. We women tend to beat ourselves up. We often focus on the mistakes we make, rather than what we do right. Get over it. George was 'humiliated" in the media, but he never let it stop him. He forgave himself and moved forward with his beliefs of how to run a team, which earned him and his investors financial rewards and the fans the joy of winning often.
#3. Be generous. Be willing to pay good people what they are worth and more to recruit them and keep them on your team. And get the best people you can afford. Treat the good ones well and get rid of the others, quickly. Women tend to keep underperforming people too long.
#4. Stop trying to be liked by everyone. You can't be a good leader and have everyone like you. If they do, you are playing it too safe.
#5. Support the causes you believe in. If you've got it, don't flaunt it in diamonds and fashions. Flaunt it by quietly giving to causes that will make the world a better place for people to live happier, healthier lives. Support the candidates that you believe will change the world. When you are successful, that's part of your responsibility.
Thank you, George. Thanks for the lessons you have taught us and for the dedication you have shared. You left your mark on sports history. You have inspired so many of us -- not just men, but also women -- with your unique leadership style.
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